When you hear the word ‘wellness’, the first thing that usually comes to mind is meditation. The ancient practice has been around for thousands of years, and although it was first conducted for religious reasons, it has now been adapted by the mainstream as a therapeutic tool for better overall health. It is still met with skepticism, mainly by those who’ve tried it once and gave up after a few minutes of not being able to clear their minds, but these misunderstandings and incorrect assumptions are only preventing people from experiencing the scientifically-proven benefits of the wellness practice.
To debunk some of the common myths about meditation, we turned to meditation expert, Michael Teh. The registered yoga teacher was a young and successful investor and entrepreneur whose life changed after embarking on daily meditation. Other than reaping the rewards of good health, joy and positivity, meditation has also helped enhance his business performance – resulting in ease and abundance when it comes to investments, stock trading and other business. He now has a healthy outlet to relieve stress, along with other negative emotions, and has built more positive relationships with his family and friends.
Teh shares, “As a result [of meditation], you become more intuitive and often find the wisdom to overcome challenges. At the same time, you will find yourself being more patient, more positive and loving when faced with problems and challenges – where in the past, such challenges may have triggered you to become angry, sad, hateful, and other negative emotions”. Read on to learn more and transform your mindset.
The Most Common Misconceptions About Meditation
- Meditation is a religious practice and for those who are lost.
I would like to debunk the notion that meditation is a religious practice, and only for those who are lost. The underlying and ultimate purpose of meditation is to seek the understanding and realization of Who You Truly Are – which I termed as Self-Realization. Self-Realization is crucial in the evolution of Humanity, leading one to understand and live a life of purpose, fulfilment, contentment and joy. Knowing and realizing Who You Truly Are sets the foundation towards actualizing your fullest potential in this lifetime. The first step towards Self-Realization is to develop awareness through mindful breathing, and meditation is the tool used to develop mindfulness and awareness.
- Meditation is just for relaxation.
While relaxation is the fundamental principle for meditation, meditation practice is not just a relaxation technique. I always share with my students that meditation is not something that you need to do or perform, but rather create the right condition for meditation to happen naturally.
- Meditation is selfish.
It may at times seem that a meditator is selfish – by sitting down on a cushion for long moments, and not seen as working or engaging with the family. However, finding time for yourself and taking care of your own mental wellbeing is crucial towards being a happier person for your family and community. Meditation is a form of self-care and self-love that leads to a healthier and happier life in the long run. It aids in removing negative thoughts and emotions from your body-mind-soul, leading to positivity, joy and happiness. When you are happy, you will naturally emanate loving kindness towards not just yourself, but all other sentient beings as well – including your family and friends. As a result, you will nurture and develop more positive relationships with the people around you.
The Health Benefits Of Meditation
One must seek to understand that our body, mind and soul are one unit that makes us a Human Being. If we are not able to balance the wellbeing of the body, mind and soul, we will not be able to live a life of positivity and lasting happiness. For example, if you are constantly living under stress and pressure, this will result in unhappiness, and also cause harm to your body by breeding diseases or mental sickness. Meditation cultivates inner peace, calm and balance. It can also be used to conduct inner-healing to remove the negative emotions that have been hidden or stored inside your body and mind – this inner healing brings forth lightness and positive mental health.
Before I embarked on a journey of meditation practice, I was not aware that there were a lot of hidden negative emotions inside our system. These negative emotions arise from our day-to-day lives, be it through our eating habits, conversations with people around us, the information we receive from social media, the conditioning of our minds due to environmental and societal factors, or the pressure and stress from work – these all contribute to the deterioration of our mental and physical health. What’s worse is that we are not even aware of it. Through meditation, you will be able to develop the necessary state of mind where you are mindful and aware of these negative conditions in you, and thus also giving you the inner power to shift from negative to positive. As a result, it heals and aids in developing a positive mental and physical wellbeing.
How To Start Meditating
Depending on the fluctuations of your mind (which is highly dependent on your state of mind – thoughts and emotions), one can start meditating daily in a short time span of 5 minutes, and slowly and gradually increase the time of meditation to 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes or even up to an hour. The aim is to not be distracted by your own thoughts and emotions, and seek to cultivate emptying your thoughts and emotions through meditation.
The goal of meditation is to develop awareness and mindfulness. Once mindfulness is developed, meditation can then be used to develop concentration. It is a mind exercise – like how we go to the gym and carry weights to build muscle, meditation can be used to train the mind by cultivating mindfulness and concentration. One should cultivate a daily meditation practice, and seek to realize the benefits of it and thus make it a way of life.
Michael’s Daily Meditation Routine
I wake up every morning to perform yoga Surya Namaska (Sun Salutation), Qi Gong movements, and meditation leading to stillness and a positive mind. I spend an hour every morning doing this prior to leaving the house – it sets the right tone and mood for the day before I start my busy schedule.
At night, prior to sleep, I will sit for a short 10-15 minute meditation to calm my mind – emptying all thoughts and emotions, leading to a very good, deep sleep. These simple yet powerful practices have indeed helped me to develop a positive and healthy state of mind, resulting in positive physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
If you are interested in attaining self-realization, visit Teh’s website for more information on his signature program “The Essence of Life Workshop Series” and weekly Yoga and Qigong classes. You can also follow him on Instagram for more mindfulness tips!
Jade Goh of The Mind Faculty shares her expert advice.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that things don’t go according to plan. The uncertainty has caused us more stress and anxiety, which has made it hard to feel hopeful for the new year. Although it seems like nothing is going to change anytime soon, we can still look forward to having a fresh start in January by practicing gratitude.
Gratitude can help plant the seeds for hope in 2021. Start by making a list of things you are grateful for this past year. Did you get to spend more time with your family, learn a new skill or have more time to relax? Think of what you can bring into the new year. By taking the time to focus on the good things that have happened, you’ll find yourself feeling more optimistic about the upcoming year!
However, it can still be hard to muster up the motivation to make New Year’s resolutions. There are two parts to feeling motivated. Firstly, you need to have something that you want to achieve, and for the second part, you need to know that there is a way to achieve this.
We may feel unmotivated to make resolutions, such as lose a certain amount of weight if we feel that our plans have been derailed by gym closures. When dealing with uncertainty and stress, we need to distinguish between what we can and can’t control.
We only have control over our actions. Instead of focusing on the destination, make resolutions about the journey. For example, instead of “I want to lose 5 kgs before February”, say “I want to move my body 20 minutes a day”. Moving your body could be walking up and down the stairs at your apartment complex, or following an exercise video on Youtube.
Don’t pressure yourself to achieve your New Year’s resolutions. Stress triggers the automatic habitual behaviour we’ve established over the years. You may find yourself retreating back to your comfort zone more easily. This is where mindfulness comes into play.
Mindfulness focuses on what really matters, and helps us stay on track or get back on track. By becoming more aware of our internal state, and the feelings that drive our behaviour, we’ll be able to make mindful choices towards more helpful behaviour.
Having goals is important as it helps us know where we are going. However, it’s equally important for us to manage our expectations – if we set them too high, we may feel discouraged.
What is digital wellness?
Everyone knows that taking care of your physical health is important, but what about your online life? We’re spending more and more time connected to the internet in some way or the other, from watching Netflix on your smart-tv, tracking your steps with a Fitbit or even sending messages through WhatsApp—seriously when was the last time you sent an SMS or (gasp) made a phone call?
At first glance, digital wellness might seem like something to do with device health—using secured sites, changing passwords frequently, avoiding suspicious downloads and links; you know the drill. But in actuality, it refers to keeping a balance of your mind and sense of self as you navigate the online world.
Why is this important?
It’s no secret that social media can affect your self-esteem. Studies have shown that viewing and engaging in the seemingly perfect lives that your friends and celebrities display, can negatively influence how you view yourself. The way that these social interaction apps are structured to emphasise views and other engagements doesn’t help either, especially when your ‘likes’ can’t stack up to those you follow.
In a similar vein, this may lead to feeling increased stress and anxiety when you don’t seem to measure up. The need to constantly create content to stay relevant—even if it is for a hobby; can take its toll. The same can be said of keeping up with world issues. In such tumultuous times, feelings of guilt and exhaustion at what seems to be a continuous stream of bad news is common and understandable.
What can you do?
Limit the time spent on social media. Yup, this might seem daunting. Try this: instead of mindlessly scrolling through your Twitter or Instagram feeds for hours on end, set yourself a time to check up on things.
Mindfulness—like its name suggests, is being aware in a purposeful way, of your intentions and surroundings. Using its techniques can help your online life in a positive way, for example: cleaning up your feeds. Curating your own experience is important, choosing to unfollow and mute accounts that cause you to feel stress will make your days better.
Self-care isn’t just taking care of yourself physically, but also making sure you’re alright mentally—and in this case; digitally. Don’t feel bad about taking a step back to breathe. By setting boundaries when you use your devices, you’ll be able to develop and maintain a healthier and more fulfilling relationship with social media.